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Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis

Key I-35W transit improvements moving forward 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, March 09, 2017 9:48:00 AM

A transit-only access ramp will allow buses to avoid congestion entering and exiting downtown Minneapolis as they travel to or from Interstate 35W.

Two key improvements included in plans for a new Bus Rapid Transit line on Interstate 35W will be built thanks to a key federal approval.

The Federal Transit Administration’s Letter of No Prejudice allows local funding to be used on a transit-only access ramp between downtown Minneapolis and I-35W (right) and a transit station​ at I-35W and Lake Street.

The improvements are part of plans for the METRO Orange Line, which will bring frequent, all-day BRT service to several new and existing stations along a 17-mile stretch of I-35W between Marq2 in Minneapolis and downtown Burnsville. Service is scheduled to begin in 2020.

“We’re excited to move forward with our partners on these critical improvements, which will benefit not just future Orange Line customers but thousands of people who travel on I-35W and Lake Street every day,” General Manager Brian Lamb said.

Like the station at I-35W and 46th Street, the Lake Street Station will be located in the middle of the interstate with two levels, an indoor waiting area and other amenities, serving Orange Line, express and local bus customers. The access ramp will allow 700 buses to avoid congestion entering and existing downtown each weekday. 

Efforts to secure full funding for the Orange Line are ongoing but the FTA’s approval is important because it allows the transit ramp and Lake Street Station to be incorporated into state-led construction efforts on I-35W beginning later this year.

Local spending on the ramp and station could later be matched by the federal government, which is being asked to cover half of the Orange Line’s total construction costs.​

Learn more about the Orange Line and subscribe to project updates here

Accessibility METRO Orange Line

Expanding access and accessibility on the Orange Line 

| Monday, January 30, 2017 10:39:00 AM

Associate Planner Natalie Westberg directs Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee Sam Jasmine to station features on a layout printed in braille during a recent station design workshop.On Marq2, hundreds of buses pull quickly in and out of stops during the afternoon rush hour. At Interstate 35W and Lake Street, customers ascend a steep set of stairs to wait in what is essentially the freeway shoulder. And at the I-35W & 46th Street Station, buses pull in and out of what seems to be the wrong side of the street as passing trucks and cars overwhelm the senses.

These are just some of the challenges faced by express and local bus customers traveling on the Interstate 35W corridor south of downtown Minneapolis. And they are all the more daunting for members of the disability community.

Planners and engineers working on the METRO Orange Line are attempting to address these and other potential barriers to using transit, though, as designs for the new Bus Rapid Transit line continue to take shape.

A key step in that process came last week, when members of the Council’s Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC) met with Metro Transit staff to review station designs and share their initial reactions. Representatives from the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and cities of Minneapolis, Burnsville and Bloomington were also involved in the meeting.

TAAC members routinely advise the Council on ways to improve accessibility and get regular updates on transitway expansion plans. But the design workshop was a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the plans while there are still chances to make changes.

“These may seem like small things, but if that small thing causes you to miss the bus and you can’t get home that’s not a little thing,” said Kjensmo Walker, who chairs the TAAC. “All of these little components have to work just right.”                                                                                                                      

As Walker and others went through each station, several questions arose:

  • > How can audio announcements – both inside and outside of enclosed waiting areas – be better used to let customers know their bus is approaching?
  • > How can uniformity in gate letters, colors and signage make boarding locations more intuitive?
  • > Is there enough room on platforms for customers in mobility devices to pass safely?
  • > How will sidewalks and street crossings bring people to and from stations?

TAAC member Sam Jasmine, using layouts imprinted with braille, was especially interested in any audio features that would provide cues. Bus annunciators are helpful, she said, but they can be difficult to hear, especially in noisier areas like Marq2 and the freeway.

“It was a little bit humbling making sure I was getting on the right bus,” she said of the last time she boarded at Lake Street.

Feedback from previous workshops has proved useful. After TAAC members reviewed plans for facility improvements at the Mall of America Transit Station, restroom entry doors that could have been a barrier for people in mobility devices were replaced with a wrap-around entrance.

TAAC members have also reviewed stations plans for the Green Line Extension and will look at station designs for the Blue Line Extension and future light-rail vehicles later this year.

Comments provided during last week’s Orange Line workshop will be considered as design work continues. Final designs for the Lake Street Station are due this spring, and other station designs are expected to be completed by this fall. The Orange Line is scheduled to open in 2020.

“We’re starting the conversation today, but we want to continue to hear from this group and all our future users,” Project Manager Christina Morrison said. “This is the type of feedback that not only benefits the Orange Line, but the entire system.”

Jasmine also sees feedback from the disability community as a way to improve the system for all riders. “The rule is if something is good for someone who can’t see, it’s good for everyone,” she said.

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Express Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Suburban Transit Transit Planning

METRO Orange Line more than the sum of its parts 

| Monday, May 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM

From Christina Morrison, METRO Orange Line Project Manager

Bus Rapid Transit is not a new concept for Interstate 35W. In fact, several improvements have been made to set the table for BRT, including bus-only shoulders, the 46th Street Station, MnPASS lanes and the downtown transit corridor known as Marq2.

This infrastructure was built even though the larger BRT project, the METRO Orange Line, was not fully funded. That's one great thing about BRT – it's nimble and can be built in pieces. The Orange Line combines all the station, roadway and service improvements that we’ve been building in pieces for decades to complete the BRT picture on I-35W.

Beginning in 2019, the Orange Line will deliver frequent, all-day service to job, housing and retail centers in Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville while relieving congestion on one of the state's busiest roadways. This enhanced transit service will not only serve those traveling downtown but reverse commuters accessing more than 30,000 jobs, as well as services, education and other destinations outside the downtown core.

We know the demand for transit in the I-35W corridor is strong and will continue to grow. In 2012, express and local bus routes in the I-35W corridor attracted nearly 14,000 daily transit riders. Ridership on the limited-stop bus service the Orange Line would replace, Route 535, has increased by more than 15 percent since 2011, topping more than 430,000 rides in 2013.

Existing customers ask why we don't simply put more buses on Route 535, and that’s a good question. While more buses could provide a short-term benefit, investing in the Orange Line strengthens our regional transit network while providing several key long-term benefits:

> Better station infrastructure. Like other METRO lines, Orange Line stations will be more comfortable and accessible -- with on-demand heat, ticket machines, enhanced transit information (including real-time, NexTrip signs) and security features. These stations will not only serve the Orange Line but complementary local and express routes, making transfers easier and more efficient. At the border of Richfield and Bloomington, Orange Line stations on Knox Avenue are also being incorporated into redevelopment plans that will create a more transit-, pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.

> Reduced travel times. A complete trip on the Orange Line will take around 35 to 40 minutes, one way. Travel times are reduced by allowing customers to pay their fares before boarding and using 60-foot buses with front, middle and rear entries. A new southbound lane exclusively for transit vehicles and carpoolers from 42nd Street to downtown Minneapolis, traffic signal technologies and a new underpass bringing Knox Avenue beneath I-494 will also make for a speedier trip.

> Improved level of service. Route 535 will do the work of multiple local and express routes. The Orange Line will operate on a simpler routing that is more user-friendly, predictable and reliable. Each streamlined trip saves operating dollars that can be reinvested into additional service on the Orange Line and connecting routes in the corridor.

These benefits are explained in greater detail in the recently released draft of the Orange Line Project Plan Update. The update summarizes work that has been done to date and provides an outline of the steps that need to be taken to begin construction.

I encourage you to read through this plan and offer your feedback. Public comments will be accepted through the end of May and incorporated before the Metropolitan Council considers the project later this year.

Your feedback is important to refining plans as we look forward to construction beginning in 2016 and opening the Orange Line for service in late 2019. Please share your input and help us make the Orange Line a success.

For continued updates, subscribe to the Orange Line Project Update newsletter. You can also join the conversation on Twitter (@MetroTransitMN) as we host a "Tweet Chat" about the Orange Line between noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20.

    > METRO Orange Line

    > Draft Project Plan Update

    > METRO Orange Line FAQs

    > I-35W Transit/Access Project

Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Orange Line Midtown Corridor Minneapolis Route of the Week

Route 27: A short route with a big impact 

| Friday, January 10, 2014 12:00:00 AM

An end-to-end trip on Route 27 covers around two miles and takes just 10 minutes. While short, the route has proven to be an important connection for commuters and residents in south Minneapolis.

Joel Oliver is a case in point. Oliver boarded recently at East 28th Street and Park Avenue, using Route 27 to get to the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station. From there, he continued south to the Minneapolis VA, where he works in vocational rehabilitation.

“I don’t use a car so public transportation is everything,” said Oliver, who is visually impaired.

While Oliver was traveling eastbound on Route 27, the route is also a strong link for those traveling west from the Blue Line. From Lake Street/Midtown Station, Route 27 buses travel east on Lake Street then venture north on Cedar Avenue to East 26th Street en route to Interstate 35W. Buses return to the Blue Line via East 28th Street.

James Broom is among those who travel westbound on Route 27. Without a car, Broom uses transit to get to his job in Bloomington and uses Route 27 to get to I-35W and Lake Street, where he transfers to Route 535.

“I generally like to bike, but when it’s winter and it's super cold I don’t like to go that far,” Broom said.

Broom works at Wells Fargo’s Bloomington office, but Route 27 is especially important to employees who work at the company’s home mortgage campus on 5th Avenue South. Wells Fargo employee Ludy has used Route 27 as part of her commute for the last 11 years, walking a few blocks to the Blue Line’s 50th Street Station and transferring to Route 27 at Lake Street.

“I take the train for a couple of stops and then this gets me the rest of the way,” she said. “It’s very convenient. I love it.”

Other major destinations along Route 27 include Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota.

Sharon Sanford uses Route 27 to see her doctor every couple of months and was on board this week after transferring from Route 7. Sanford said she elects to take transit primarily for environmental reasons. “I believe in mass transit because there’s too much pollution in the air,” she said.

While Route 27 is designed primarily to serve as a link between light rail and large employers and institutions, it has earned a following from south Minneapolis residents who use the bus to get groceries or shop on Lake Street as well.

Elie Hall is among those who use Route 27 to run errands. Hall began using the bus when he moved into Ebenezer Care Center on Portland Avenue four years ago. “I don’t want to drive anymore so this means a lot to me,” Hall said recently as he returned from the grocery store. “Every place I go, I use transit.”

Route 27 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

ServiceRoute 27 runs between the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station and I-35W and Lake Street with service on Portland Avenue, 26th Street East and 28th Street East. Buses run every 10 to 20 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes midday, weekdays only. The route serves major employers such as Wells Fargo, Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Children's Hospital and Clinic. Reverse commuters who work in this location are also served by Route 39, which provides limited-stop service on Park and Portland avenues.

Route Length: Approximately 2 miles

Stops: 13 eastbound, 17 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot

Ridership: Nearly 63,000 customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 217 passengers per day

History: Route 27 service began when the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004. The route was created in part to serve large employers that were not directly connected to the new rail service.

Future: No service changes are planned at this time. However, there are plans for a new transit center at I-35W and Lake Street that would serve express buses and the METRO Orange Line. The Midtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis is meanwhile exploring improvements to service in the nearby Lake Street Corridor.

Bus Express Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 597: Simple steps to an easy commute 

| Friday, November 22, 2013 3:24:00 PM

Janell Nelson hadn’t worked in downtown Minneapolis for over 20 years. But when she got a new job that brought her back to the heart of the city in early November, she knew immediately that she wasn’t interested in driving to the office every day.                       

Instead of getting in her car, the Bloomington resident now walks less than a block to a bus stop where she catches Route 597. Within a half hour, she is let off on 2nd Avenue South where she walks an equally short distance to her office.

“I didn’t want the headaches of driving downtown, especially this winter,” Nelson said. “This has just been so convenient.”

The sentiments were shared among a handful of commuters aboard a recent northbound trip on Route 597, an express bus that runs from Bloomington to Minneapolis along the Interstate 35W corridor. Like Nelson, customers said they opted to use transit so they could avoid battling traffic, parking and gas expenses while enjoying some calm during their daily trips to and from work.

“It’s cheaper and I like that I can text or do whatever I want,” said Tomia Gore, who has taken Route 597 over the last three years. “It’s just a much more relaxing way to commute.”

Gore boarded the bus at Normandale Village, a shopping center at the southwest corner of the 98th Street and Normandale Boulevard intersection. Around two-dozen parking spaces have been set aside at the shopping center for Park & Ride use. Depending on her schedule, Gore also uses the Park & Ride to catch Route 589 which travels along Highway 100 and Interstate 394 to Minneapolis.

In addition to Normandale Village, Route 597 serves Park & Rides at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and the South Bloomington Transit Center. The route’s C and E branches operate south of 98th Street West to Bloomington Ferry Road, serving a number of major employers and residential areas.

Caleb Moore doesn’t need to drive in order to catch the bus, though. He simply walks a block from his home to 102nd Street West and Normandale Boulevard, where the bus picks him up shortly before 7 a.m. In Minneapolis, he’s let off directly in front of his office.

“I don’t have a car, but even if I did I’d still take the bus because I think it’s just a much better way to travel,” Moore said.

While Moore and most other customers on the bus were on their ways to work, Kaleigh Swift was on her way to De La Salle High School. Swift began riding the bus for the first time this semester and, though she’s old enough to drive, has put off getting a license or a car to save money. “And this is just so much easier,” she said.

Though she was the only student traveling northbound, Route 597’s southbound trips help students from Minneapolis get to Normandale Community College, the route’s southern terminus. The college is part of Metro Transit’s College Pass program in which students a participating schools get unlimited rides for $140 or $175 per semester.

Student Life Coordinator Amanda Lilgreen, a Normandale alumnus, said she remembers having to come to class an hour early to find a parking space. Through the promotion of carpooling and transit options like Route 597, those days have largely come to an end.

“Even students who own cars still take the bus because it’s cheaper for them and they can do their homework or read,” Lilgreen said.

To accommodate future travel demands on the I-35W corridor, Metro Transit is developing plans for the METRO Orange Line, a Bus Rapid Transit line that would bring all day, frequent service between Burnsville and Minneapolis. Planning remains ongoing but the hope is to open the Orange Line as early as 2019.

Route 597 would continue operating even with the addition of the new Orange Line service since but BRT would replace Route 535, a complementary service in the I-35W corridor.

Route 597 At a Glance

Type: Express

ServiceRoute 597 runs along the Interstate 35W corridor providing express bus service between downtown Minneapolis and Bloomington. Buses operate between approximately 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays. There are several Park & Rides along the route, including Normandale Village, Transfiguration Lutheran Church, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and the South Bloomington Transit Center. Route 597 also provides limited service to the I-35W and 46th Street Station, which opened in 2010 and sits between the northbound and southbound lanes of I-35W. Downtown, Route 597 buses use the Marq2 transit corridor, where NexTrip signage, heated shelters and wider sidewalks have been added to improve the customer experience. Route 597 is Pay Exit bus in which customers pay at the end of their trip to speed boarding on buses leaving downtown during rush hours. Route 597 serves as a complement to Route 535, which also travels along the I-35W corridor providing limited-stop service at 15- to 60-minute intervals on weekdays.

Route length: Approximately 13 miles

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses and 60-foot articulated buses

Stops: 102 northbound, 203 southbound

Ridership: More than 126,000 customer boardings in 2012, with an average of around 491 boardings per day

History: Express bus service to the south metro began after the construction of I-35W in the 1960s. Before the creation of routes 597 and 535, Route 47 provided express service from 98th Street to downtown Minneapolis. At the south end, Route 597 was extended to Blooming Ferry Road several years ago.

Future: The METRO Orange Line is slated to bring all-day, frequent bus service to the I-35W corridor as between Burnsville and Minneapolis as early as 2019. The addition of the Orange Line will not lead to any changes for Route 597.

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